Cover of The Lived Nile by Jennifer L. Derr
The Lived Nile
Environment, Disease, and Material Colonial Economy in Egypt
Jennifer L. Derr


July 2019
264 pages.
from $26.00

Cloth ISBN: 9781503608672
Paper ISBN: 9781503609655
Digital ISBN: 9781503609662

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In October 1902, the reservoir of the first Aswan Dam filled, and Egypt's relationship with the Nile River forever changed. Flooding villages of historical northern Nubia and filling the irrigation canals that flowed from the river, the perennial Nile not only reshaped agriculture and the environment, but also Egypt's colonial economy and forms of subjectivity.

Jennifer L. Derr follows the engineers, capitalists, political authorities, and laborers who built a new Nile River through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The river helped to shape the future of technocratic knowledge, and the bodies of those who inhabited rural communities were transformed through the environmental intimacies of their daily lives. At the root of this investigation lies the notion that the Nile is not a singular entity, but a realm of practice and a set of temporally, spatially, and materially specific relations that structured experiences of colonial economy. From the microscopic to the regional, the local to the imperial, The Lived Nile recounts the history and centrality of the environment to questions of politics, knowledge, and the lived experience of the human body itself.

About the author

Jennifer L. Derr is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

"The Lived Nile offers a creative and smart account of a river and a nation, fluidly braiding together a history of labor, disease, and political economy, brimming with keen insight and filled with unexpected turns."

—Gregg Mitman, University of Wisconsin-Madison

"The Lived Nile offers a highly original synthesis of environmental and political history. Jennifer Derr shows how the remaking of the Nile River in the colonial period remade the very bodies of the country's political subjects."

—Timothy Mitchell, Columbia University

"A brilliant book, The Lived Nile captures the complexities and unintended consequences of experts intervening in a river's flow—and the displaced and diseased bodies that result—in a most compelling story. This is history at its best."

—Beth Baron, author of The Orphan Scandal: Christian Missionaries and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood